Friday, January 03, 2014

The Pagano Preview Jan 3-5

Every Friday I look ahead to the weekend's rugby for the Irish provinces and beyond.

For what it was, the ROG documentary did not fail to deliver.  It was an hour’s television completely devoted to things as he saw them, and it definitely gave an interesting perspective from the man on (albeit selective) portions of his career.

What made the programme most entertaining for me, however, was the reactions of fans on Twitter.  Some went online just to be mean, but they’re always there so let’s not give them the attention they so pathetically seek.

Then we have those whose hero worship knows no bounds and brings with it a sense of utter hypocrisy. 

To put it simply, for some people everything positive is a “measure of the man”, while everything negative is something to be either ignored, excused or ferociously defended. 

For example, when ROG criticises something, even something he did himself, he is being “honest”, but woe betide anyone dare mention anything about his career that may not have gone to plan! Those same adoring fans don’t seem to appreciate that type of honesty.

Fact is, he was most certainly a legend of Irish rugby who racked up a host of records that those who follow him will struggle to emulate.  And of course, nothing can take away from the fact that he supplied the drop goal which ultimately won that unforgettable Grand Slam.

Not everything was perfect by a long stretch (lost Heineken finals, Lions Tour 2009 among others, much more than that one crossfield kick v Scotland the documentary implied was his only blemish), but neither is it for any of the other “legends” whatever province or country they come from. 

It was a shame how his career just fizzled out without the send-off most sporting greats get, but by all accounts that was how he wanted it so all we can do is wish him all the best in his current and future roles.

Meanwhile back home we have some interprovincial derbies to preview so let’s get on with it.


Saturday, January 4

RaboDirectPRO12

Zebre v Benetton Treviso, 3pm

More worried about the Italians gearing up to leave the Rabo than I am about the result of this match, but I have to hope for a home win.  Zebre by 6

Connacht v Leinster, 7:15pm

Haven’t done the maths but I’d say there’s more caps in this Leinster backline than in any Ireland have put out in a long time.

Of course with that great power comes great responsibility.  This Leinster matchday 23 has to be expected to deliver a try-bonus victory and anything less will attract the ire of critics, me included, so the pressure is on.

Things don’t look to shabby in the forwards, either, with all of those light on caps impressing this season as well.  It is perilously close to the strongest team Matt O’Connor has ever put out for Leinster, so it comes down to whether or not Pat Lam’s men can re-kindle the spirit from their landmark triumph in Toulouse.

Connacht will not only need the experience of leaders like Clarke, Muldoon and Parks from the bench, but also ex-Leinster men Carr and Harris-Wright will have to step up.  Wouldn’t hurt their cause if the traditional gusty rainy Galway weather offered them a 16th man as well.

Most of all from Leinster I’ll be looking for a decent outing from Ian Madigan.  While our standing in both competitions is better now than at the same stage last season, things have not been rosy in the garden for us in the 10 position, and I still disagree strongly with the popular line that Gopperth has been “superb”.

This is an opportunity for Madigan to not only establish himself as Leinster’s starting out-half going into rounds 5 & 6 of the Heineken, but also to put his hand up for the Six Nations - Paddy Jackson set up one good try for Ulster last night but didn’t exactly set the world on fire for the full 80.

So a lot expected from this Leinster team tonight, all that remains is for them to match the expectations.  Tradition on this blog dictates that I back against Connacht, and I will add to Leinster’s pressure by backing a decent margin of victory. Leinster by 15

Ulster Bank League Division 1A

The UBL reaches its halfway point today, with the top clash definitely 1st v 3rd at Castle Avenue as leaders Tarf host reigning champions Lansdowne who are moving back up the table after a poor start.  The top four all hail from Leinster at this stage, and the Cork/Limerick Munster derby of Con (5th) v Cookies (6th) will go a long way to  showing which from the southern province can keep pace with the top.  Meanwhile at the wrong end of the table Garryowen will definitely be keen to register their first win of the campaign at home to Mary’s.  All games kickoff at 2:30pm click this link to follow the latest scores from all the Div 1A clubs on twitter.

Clontarf v Lansdowne, 2:30pm

Cork Constitution v Young Munster, 2:30pm

Dolphin v Old Belvedere, 2:30pm

Garryowen v St Mary’s, 2:30pm

UCD v Ballynahinch, 2:30pm

Lansdowne Premiership

London Irish v Worcester Warriors, 3pm

Gloucester v Saracens, 3:15pm

Top 14

Toulon v Grenoble, 1:55pm

Biarritz v Stade Francais, 5:30pm

Perpignan v Bayonne, 5:30pm

Oyonnax v Racing Métro, 5:30pm

Brive v Montpellier, 7:35pm

Top League

Canon Eagles v Panasonic Wild Knights, 3am

NEC Green Rockets v Kobelco Steelers, 5:15am

Sunday, January 5

Lansdowne Premiership

Leicester Tigers v Bath, 2pm

London Wasps v Exeter Chiefs, 3pm

Top 14

Toulouse v Clérmont, 7:45pm


Be sure and enjoy your rugby this weekend wherever you are.

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